Haiti violence hampering cholera response, UN and partners warn

17 November 2010

The United Nations and its humanitarian partners in Haiti are urging an end to the violent demonstrations in Cap Haitien, which they say are seriously impeding efforts to respond to the rapidly escalating cholera outbreak.

“We call upon all involved in these clearly orchestrated demonstrations to stop immediately so national and international partners can continue to save lives with our response to the cholera,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, said yesterday.

“Every day we lose means hospitals go without supplies, patients go untreated and people remain ignorant of the danger they are facing. It is vital that everything possible is done to contain this outbreak in Cap Haitien while we still can – but this is very difficult in the current environment.”

Speaking on behalf of the humanitarian community in the country, Mr. Fisher warned that the security situation in Cap Haitien is preventing vital supplies from reaching the area, where medical staff are overwhelmed and cholera deaths are climbing.

Cap Haitien is located in the Nord Department, or administrative region, which currently has the highest cholera fatality rate in the country – 7.5 per cent.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the UN has been forced to cancel flights carrying soap, medical supplies and personnel to Cap Haitien and Port de Paix.

A number of projects had to be suspended, including water chlorination for 300,000 people in slum areas and training for medical staff in cholera response, and road blocks set up by demonstrators are hampering people from getting to hospitals.

In addition, a warehouse used by the World Food Programme (WFP) has been looted of 500 metric tonnes of food and burned.

“We condemn without reservation the attack on the WFP warehouse, and the looting of such life-saving supplies,” said Mr. Fisher. “We call upon all who perpetrate such acts to remember that such supplies and the urgent work to combat cholera are the difference between life and death for everyone affected by this epidemic.”

The outbreak, which was first confirmed late last month, has made over 12,000 Haitians ill and claimed the lives of an estimated 900 people. The UN is coordinating an urgent international appeal for $164 million to fund cholera response in Haiti, which is still coping with the aftermath of January's devastating earthquake and a recent hurricane.

 

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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

UN deplores ‘politically motivated’ violence in Haiti

The United Nations mission in Haiti has deplored yesterday’s acts of violence against local and UN security forces during demonstrations in the cities of Cap-Haitien and Hinche, saying the riots, which resulted in several injuries, were politically motivated.